Welcome back to another instalment of the fibromyalgia sleep chronicles. I will get back to business on sleeping tips in the coming weeks, but for today there is something more personal that I wanted to share with you about my sleep and how I cope when it doesn’t quite go how we all dream it would (excuse the pun).
If you have read the previous posts in this series then you will be familiar with my slight obsession with good sleep hygiene and habits in order to improve sleep (if you haven’t read them then I recommend you start with this post when you have finished reading what I have to share today).
However, my obsession with these habits isn’t just a phase, nor an unhealthy obsession. It is my personal recipe for getting things right. Not only practising these techniques, but also understanding why you should employ them, helps you to have a better relationship with sleep, and also not panic when things don’t go right. I’d also like to add that you don’t have to suffer with fibromyalgia to benefit from these techniques, you just need to be someone who would like to sleep better.
My sleep today, without boasting, is a thousand times better than it was 6 months ago, and treating my sleep like the third element of health, along with diet and exercise, has benefitted me enormously. This does mean that I am very quiet and boring of an evening (but this suits my better half as he has early starts so no problem there) and it doesn’t mean that I always get it right, and that I sleep soundly and deeply every night.
Life gets in the way. Children wake up in the night feeling unwell or after a bad dream. I get sick. God forbid I have an alcoholic drink. That’s right, things aren’t all rosy and it isn’t always a good night for me.
Take for example these last few days. Friday morning I woke up with back/loin pain, but put it down to a change of role at work which entailed more sitting than usual. I took in my hot water bottle, made myself move around a little more and thought I would get better. Friday night I slept dreadfully. Saturday also dreadful (partly down to having some rum, don’t judge), and by Sunday I realised that the back pain wasn’t because of my job but because I was developing a nasty kidney infection (which is now being treated). Pair this with a child that then woke up on Sunday night and by Monday I was more tired than when I finished work on Friday. This morning, I had to pretty much winch myself out of bed.
What I haven’t done however is give up hope of a good nights sleep, and I absolutely haven’t stopped practising the tried and tested techniques that I know work so well for me. I haven’t judged this blip and thought to myself “I don’t know why I bother because nothing works”, or “I’m too tired to do that tonight”. Instead I have carried on.
But how do you carry on? Well, its difficult and takes a lot of willpower that I know you all have. When all you want to do come morning is lay in bed, I urge you to absolutely get up and continue you day as much as you can, without making yourself more ill. Take a hard look at what could be the trigger for sleep eluding you at that moment and do all you can to remedy it. What has changed? Can you make it better? If you can, do so immediately. Most importantly you have to continue doing what you know works so well and keep up the good habits. By doing this, given time, it will start to improve again and today will soon be a distant memory.
Another key aspect to any ‘bumps in the road’ is acceptance. 6 months ago I used to get up and tell myself what a terrible night I had spent in the sack. I would tell everybody about it, and blame everything that went wrong that day on how poorly I had slept. I would flop into bed the following night EXPECTING to sleep badly again, and so I did.
Today I got up and thought to myself “well that was crap” and then I moved on. I didn’t allow it to invade my day, and I didn’t give it the airtime it doesn’t deserve. I wouldn’t say I ignored it as such, but I acknowledged the poor sleep, had a think about why it happened and I took proactive steps to remedy that problem, in the confidence that the next night stands every chance of being better. Sometimes it isn’t better, sometimes it is much worse, but at least I know I am doing something about it, and that I am in control. I will go to bed happy tonight, that I have achieved everything I can today, continue my sleep hygiene and aim for a good nights sleep. I have accepted the sleep for what it is, I haven’t over analysed it, yet done nothing and expect it to get magically better. I hasten to add that this has taken an awful lot of practice, and much more trial and error than I care to mention.
I know that changes to long forged habits are incredibly difficult to do and for anyone who has suffered with sleep problems these habits are your coping mechanism. Its often difficult for any chronic condition to know where to begin. As I have said in previous posts you have to take it one step at a time, not making too many changes at once. With this is mind start with the very beginning of this series spend at least a week looking at where you could perhaps have room to make improvements. This may include speaking to your doctor, family and friends to gain their support.
Eventually the good night comes, and when it does I give the biggest thanks I possibly can for its return. It feels amazing and feels even more fantastic knowing that it came back because of what I did, and through sheer determination, not magic.